What is Writing Coaching?
The term "coach" used in non-wrestling or midwifery context has always made me a little nervous---bringing to mind someone who couldn't be bothered to earn a degree---someone with a lot of hairspray, a dolphin pendant and dodgy shoes.
However, working on a novel or story can be quite a bit like oil wrestling and giving birth simultaneously. Sometimes, my job is to get in the greasy pit with a writer, show them the techniques to subdue their sweaty ego (chicken wing armlock, octopus hold) and support and cheer them while they pant and push their tender offspring into the world.
I worked as an oil wrestler in my misspent youth (at a Mexican Restaurant called "Sammy’s Gato Gordo") and the matches were rigged---the women knew ahead of time who was going to be pinned. This is true for writers as well---and you (the writer) are responsible for rigging the match. A writing coach helps you rig the match for success, rather than failure. The coach helps you recognize that not only do you rig the match, you are both opponents, the mat, and the spectators too.
Best case scenario, we move away from all this wrestling and pushing and step into a different arena altogether---a place where the client is plugged into an infinite creative current and can write with wild and rapturous grace.
And truth be told, my shoes are a bit dodgy.
My clients primarily fit into four categories: beginners, late bloomers, advanced but unpublished writers, and blocked professionals.
Obviously there can be quite a bit of cross-over in these categories and what each writer needs is highly individual, but for the first three categories I tend to focus pretty heavily on craft---the techniques and tools of the trade.
For beginners “writer’s block” often has to do with not knowing how to translate the beautiful abstract masterpiece in the head or heart into actual words on paper. Or they may be disheartened by the misshapen translation of their vision and wonder “What is this crap coming out on the page?”
My teaching is informed by what I wished I had been taught as a novice writer---and that primarily centered around craft and technique---the nuts and bolts of scene and summary, dialogue, characterization, point of view, structure, etc. With beginners, I discuss the “rules” of fiction and creative nonfiction---the current conventions and fashions---and also discuss breaking these rules. I want my clients to be aware of what the conventions are, so that they are conscious in their decision to take a different path. I encourage risk taking, vulnerability and pushing the envelope. I prefer a rough but ambitious and pulsing experiment to a technically perfect but dead piece of writing.
Exercises are at the heart of my coaching process for beginning writers. We use these exercises to generate new material, to fine tune craft and explore new possibilities in a project already underway. Emphasis is placed on the scene, as the fundamental building block of fiction (and much creative nonfiction). Revision is approached in terms of finding the meaning or core of a piece, rather than simply cleaning up mistakes.
Late bloomers may have issues to do with feeling a need for permission to write, or they may be fighting a sinking feeling of “It’s too late." Fortunately, writing is not like tennis. William Gay published his debut novel at age 57. I give late bloomers the encouragement, skill set and confidence to get started and to enjoy and realize the profound value of the process of writing. It is never a waste of time to write! If there is a deeper block to a client's creativity, I will ask questions to explore the nature of the problem and give them individualized exercises (physical, psychological and creative) to help dissolve it.
Advanced but unpublished writers often need help refining and polishing their work. I act as an empathetic and sophisticated reader and help them take their writing to the next level.
Blocked professionals already know their craft but something is stopping them from practicing it. Professionals suffering from writers' block generally have a highly developed idea of what the problem is (which may or may not be accurate) and they may be aware of plenty of techniques to combat writers' block---but somehow, they remain stuck. I usually recommend energy shifting in these cases. Please visit my energy work website for more information about energy shifting http://writingthelight.com/
Coaching and energy work is conducted over the phone and Skype or in person and tailored to individual needs.
For individual coaching, $150 per hour.
Book Length Manuscript reading: a flat rate of $3.50 per double-spaced, 12 point font, single-sided page. This includes a written analysis addressing global and substantive issues of 6 to 10 pages and a half-hour phone consultation.
I do not offer editing services. If you are looking for an editor, I highly reccomend:
Darcie Whelan Kortan firstname.lastname@example.org 845-883-9896.